OLYMPIA, Wash. - Heather Kirk drove two-and-a-half hours from St. Paul, Oregon to Olympia to share her dad's story.
Nine days before Christmas my dad underwent brain surgery, she said as she stoodbefore a state Medical Board Committee, detailing the struggles her father faced in getting his insurance company to pay for chemotherapy pills. His out-of-pocket co-pay was over $5,500for his first round of chemo.
Heather couldn't believe it. Her father's medical insurance would pay for traditional chemotherapy, but the pill form fell under prescription coverage, which barely paid for a week of treatment.
Last year, Heather's story was instrumental in changing the laws in Oregon-the first state in the nation requiring companies to pay for all forms of cancer treatment. She's hoping for the same here.
Pharmacist Paul Martin says it's a complicated situation for doctors, patients and the insurance companies.
The issue is that somebody has got to pay the bill, so if you put it on your prescription insurance then all the insurers are going to be paying for that as a pool, he said.
Heather listened to the testimonies of others who are dealing with the same issues. She said making certain all forms of cancer treatment are covered is the right thing to do.
When you're an insured patient, the one thing that you count on is that your insurance will cover you in a time of need, especially with something like cancer, she said.
Heather's father is in remission and The Regence Group changed it's policies to include coverage for oral cancer medications.
The legislature asked for today's hearing to gather input on the frequency of these types of situations.